It was January 2015, apparently. I had forgotten that it was January 2015, I thought it was like July or August 2015 after I got grilled by my friends at a Kansas City Royals game regarding which Premier League soccer team I liked. But apparently, it was January 2015, according to tweets from that timeframe:
#JoesDecision. It was a joke among my friends back then. I subsequently forgot to watch any West Ham United matches over the remaining half of the season. I couldn’t even name a single West Ham United player from that year – Chicharito? Was he there then? Peter Crouch? Sebastian Lletget? I couldn’t tell you where they ended up in the overall table.
Anyway, that 2015 venture failed on a number of levels. For one, I liked college football and basketball and they played their games the same time that ESPN was doing the College Gameday show. This has been the recurring issue since I started trying to watch European soccer. The other issue with the West Ham situation was that I am very sensitive to the sounds of certain words, some of them just gross me out, and “Bubble” is one of them. The fact that I dislike that word as well as “Mask” (in particular said with a sneering midwestern accent) has made 2020 the most difficult year of my life in that category. Anyway, the word “bubble” makes up a significant part of the identity of West Ham United, being a part of a song that they sing all the time. And I know that is a small, stupid reason, but if I’m picking a team based off of no familial or regional affiliation, then why would I pick one that would cause me to experience a weird squick every few hours? So that failed
It was during the Summer of 2015 when the incident involving the grilling at the Royals game happened. This prompted perhaps the most monumental of decisions in my life – #JoesDecision2. This ended with a waffling between either Aston Villa or Southampton FC. I believe I chose Aston Villa because they had an American player. Unfortunately for me, that American player was Brad Guzan and they sucked the whole year. So I bailed out of that ship as well. My Villa fandom lasted about four weeks, and fittingly so.
It was then October 30th of 2015 when I made the actual, most monumental decision of the #JoesDecision saga:
I believe that #JoesDecision3 was regarding a National Hockey League team, which never came to fruition and I have resigned myself to the fact that I never will. It’s kind of like with sexual fetishes, the people who like hockey and the people who like bare feet can explain to me why they like it and I can recognize that but when it comes to me actually engaging with the material, I just don’t feel it. I’m moving to Canada theoretically in 2021 so I’ll probably have to find a way to enjoy hockey (I would assume that if I actually attend a game, I’ll start to understand it, but I am doubtful about the prospect of spectators ever setting foot in a hockey arena ever again).
Anyway, #JoesDecisionIV gave me the longest and most intensive interest in Premier League football of my entire life, meaning that it stretched throughout the season and into part of the next one. Southampton FC, under Ronald Koeman, played an interesting, high-press, counter-attacking sort of football, which was similar to what I was used to watching at Sporting KC under Peter Vermes. They had fun players, and they won a lot of matches, finishing sixth in the Premier League in 2016, qualifying for the Europa League. I really had fun watching that team. I bought jerseys off of eBay, I followed Southampton-based reporters on Twitter, I would follow transfer rumors and support the Southampton players in international competitions. I would have called myself honestly a fan of Southampton FC during the year of 2016.
Of course, as is just the rule there, success at Southampton meant that every piece on the team that I liked was sold somewhere else. Koeman went to Everton (then the Netherlands national team, and now Barcelona somehow). Most of the best players from that team went on to play at bigger, more important clubs – Maya Yoshida is now at Sampdoria, Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mane are now at Liverpool, and Victor Wanyama is now at Impact Montreal. So when we got to the latter half of the year, I was at this point where, within the span of a few months, the team I had liked basically was not there anymore, and again, I lost interest.
I think that this has been the difficult thing about ever truly attaching myself to a European sports team. Well, I don’t know that it’s the most difficult thing:
The Top Ten Most Difficult Things Regarding Joe Fully Following a European Soccer Team
- I’m asleep when they play
- Can’t attend their games in person
- Rosters always changing all the time and good players on smaller clubs end up inevitably at bigger clubs
- Rather than choosing who I like based on the purity of childhood appreciations I’m choosing who I like either based on things like style of play and personnel, which are things that can and do change, or things like colors I like or cities I’ve been to briefly as a tourist, which feels too simple to base this significant decision upon
- If I am choosing based on names, the ones with the cool names like “Scunthorpe United” and “Yeovil Town” and “Accrington Stanley” and “Plymouth Argyle” are all in the lower divisions. The ones with cool names in the Premier League like Wolverhampton Wanderers or Queens Park Rangers always get relegated after a few years. Crystal Palace is the exception that proves the rule
- Never been to most of these cities, the only ones I have been to are London and Brighton and everybody hates the teams in those cities from what I have gathered. I have also been to York, which was my favorite of the English cities I’ve been to, but their club is in the English fifth division from what I can gather.
- My favorite ever professional soccer player (Benny Feilhaber) played one season in the Premier League and only appeared in ten matches for apparently the worst Premier League team in the league’s history. Why would I support a league that treated him that way?
- My second favorite ever professional soccer player (Tommy McNamara) never even looked at playing in the Premier League, which reflects a difference in ethos between what that league wants out of a forward (efficient goalscorer) and what I want out of a forward (scores off knee and then ends with entire body in back of net)
- Will not watch matches on Peacock because I don’t want even indirectly to pay any money to a corporation and know that, in some small way, it even potentially ends up in the pocket of Cris Collinsworth
- I liked that Gary Oldman movie where he plays the guy that goes around with all the other fans from his club and they fight all the fans of the opposing clubs on matchdays but from what I understand they no longer allow that
But it’s that turnover, for the most part, that gets to me. Every time I try to make some high-minded adult decision and say “I like this team because of their style of play and their personnel”, the manager gets poached, their best players go elsewhere, and their style of play changes. Which is fine, that’s how the game is, and I think really what it reflects is that I need to change my criteria for “who I like.” If like effortful, thoughtful, mindful decision-making process always fails me, then I have to change my decision-making process.
Luckily, though, I think that divine intervention took the decision-making process out of my hands. Relatively near to my house, there is a secondhand clothing store named Plato’s Closet. I first learned of Plato’s Closet via a series of enervating but effective radio ads in the late-aughts detailing the tribulations of a businesswoman who wakes up not knowing what to wear. I did not care for them at the time but when the time came for me to not know what to wear, I remembered the radio businesswoman and I went to Plato’s Closet. I believe my first trip there was in 2011 or so, and I’ve consistently returned since.
The best ever Plato’s Closet find that I made was, in late 2016, finding a good condition black H&M bomber jacket for 25 dollars. That was, at least, until November of 2020, when the aforementioned divine intervention struck.
Back when I was trying to be a Southampton fan, I struggled to find any apparel of theirs through any of the typical outlets. The traditional stores, WorldSoccerShop, Soccer.com, Soccer Master, et cetera, they only stocked the Premier League’s big… however many it is. The Manchesters, the three London ones that aren’t Fulham or Milwall, and Red Liverpool. Maybe they had a scant Everton scarf or Inexplicable Newcastle Jersey, but that was it. At that time, the big American online stores didn’t stock a fucking thing of Southampton apparel. So I had to order the two pieces of Southampton apparel that I ended up having during the brief period I spent as a Saints fan through eBay. I think I got the 2014-15 jersey through a guy in upstate New York for like $25, and I spent like $40 total ($25 for the jersey, $15 for the overseas DHL shipping) from Poland on their 2008 jersey, which took a month and a half to arrive. I understand that it must be easier now, like I think you can get every Premier League club’s jersey off of WorldSoccerShop now. But it was hard as hell to get any Saints merchandise to Kansas in 2015.
So you can understand my shock when I found a Southampton FC shirt at the aforementioned Plato’s Closet in early November. Nice little Under Armour thing, moisture wicking, probably for exercise (at least that’s when I wear it). And you can probably understand the further shock that came when, in mid-December, over a month later, when I was back at that same Plato’s Closet looking for something completely different (black jeans for work), I stumbled upon one of those pullover quarter zip things with the Southampton logo on it as well! I never could’ve imagined, after having to order from Poland to find Southampton apparel a mere five years ago, that I would accidentally stumble upon their apparel twice over the span of 40+ days in a thrift store.
This, obviously, is a sign from god. I have to like Southampton FC again. I don’t own four pieces of apparel from most of the teams I actually like. I think I have maybe four pieces of Royals apparel? Like two hats, a shirt, and a sweatshirt maybe? I only have a single hat from the Vikings! Logically, it would only follow that someone who owns four pieces of apparel with a team’s logo on it would be considered a fan of said team. I think that’s reason enough, it would be weird if I had that much clothing with their logo on it and didn’t like them.
So from this point forward, I like Southampton FC again. I will be talking about how they shouldn’t have moved out of the Dell, and I will be like “Come On You Saints” from time to time, and I will dislike Portsmouth (I think it’s Portsmouth that they don’t like?), and I will talk about Matt Le Tissier (which I and everybody else should just be doing anyway). But most importantly I will be hoping that nobody actually from Southampton ever reads this.
This was not another entry in the #JoesDecision line. This was not my decision. As I stated earlier, it was clearly god who put the clothes pieces in that store (if I’d found like four Watford FC shirts in that store I would be whole hog for that team too, this was out of my hands, I simply channel what is given to me.) I suppose that I didn’t have to buy those but whatever. I needed a good shirt for running and then the second thing came naturally. Perhaps it was fate that they arrived in my sphere of existence in that order, because I doubt I would’ve bought the quarter-zip thing (it was like thirteen dollars) if I hadn’t got the shirt (eight dollars) first a month earlier. But no matter. This was not a #JoesDecision, because I did not decide. Someone up there decided for me. Therefore, this will henceforth be known as #JoesRedecision. This is like how in some churches in the South they baptize you again when you’re like twenty five.
Come On You Saints.